Carol McGregor is a Brisbane-based artist and academic of both Wathaurung (Victoria) and Scottish heritage. She has exhibited her work in group and solo exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally. She is an active curator and writer.
Carol’s artistic output focuses on cultural heritage: illuminating histories, narratives and techniques via the collaborative practice of making contemporary possum skin cloaks. She uses mixed media to render these stories, using possum skins to which cotton, ochre, ash, resin and binder are added.
The creation of this cloak involved a collaboration between Carol and Brisbane’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members. Learn more about the stories of food, hunting and gathering shared on this cloak.
Carol began researching and making these cloaks in response to her family history:
I began making contemporary possum skin cloaks as a tangible way to connect to my Aboriginal great grandmother, Annie. Traditionally, these cloaks were personal, inscribed with images or patterns to signify where you are from, your place, totems and tribal stories.
Reclaim and connect to cultural expression; creating objects as vehicles of remembering that give physical form to shadows of the past; ‘un-silencing’ our stories to make the invisible visible; and working towards a more richly informed future.
Carol’s doctoral thesis explores the traditional practice of possum skin cloak-making and is titled Art of the Skins: unsilencing and remembering (2019). An exhibition of the same name, Art of the Skins, was held at the State Library of Queensland in 2016. In preparation for this exhibition, more than 50 Indigenous community workshops were staged over a two-year period. Carol continues to facilitate regular workshops, to engage with new audiences, transfer knowledge and keep the tradition of possum skin cloak-making alive.
Customarily, the possum skin cloak evolves during a person’s lifetime; as the owner ages and develops, a new skin is attached which records their personal narratives. Few historical possum skin cloaks are held in permanent collections worldwide.
Carol’s artworks were displayed at Museum of Brisbane as part of Tastes Like Sunshine (2017) and New Woman (2019). One of her cloaks, titled Bush tucker (2017), a collaborative work by 23 members of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, forms an important part of the Museum of Brisbane Collection. The cloak has 20 different sections detailing the traditional food sources of bush tucker – flora and fauna, gathered from land and sea – that various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups consider vital. The methods of collecting and hunting, and the subsequent sharing of these native resources are sacred to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Museum of Brisbane acknowledges the contribution of:
Rayleen Burns (Yuwaalaraay)
Jacinta Jayne Bligh (Wakka Wakka, Cobble Cobble, Kullali)
Joyce Watson and Rani Grace Watson Carmichael (Waanyi)
John Long (Yugarabul)
Jason Murphy (Jinibara)
Dylan Mooney (Yuibera)
Ailsa Walsh-Davidson (Lardil, Kullili, Yuggera)
Melinda and Nurdon Serico (Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi)
Dylan Sarra (Bunda Tirabilang)
Tamika Hill-Williams (Kabi Kabi/Waka Waka)
Kyra Mancktelow (Quandamooka)
Carol McGregor (Wathaurung, artist, facilitator)
Tracey Ah Sam (Ah Sam family)
Laurie Nilsen (Mandandanji)
Deb Taylor (Gamilaraay)
Dominique Chen (Kamilaroi)
Hal Oram (Muninjali, Jetimarala, Kanolu)
Dianne Hall (Gamilaraay)
Melissa K. Stannard (Gamillaroi)
Haylee Williamson (Jarowair)
and Harmony Otrupcek (Kamilaroi)